China: Visa Requirement for Short Trips Lifted and Visa Application Process Simplified


published on 27 November 2023 | reading time approx. 2 minutes

China has surprisingly lifted the visa requirement for short stays of up to 15 days for citizens from Germany, Malaysia, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy. 

Lifting of the visa requirement for short trips

Surprisingly, China has lifted the visa requirement for foreigners from six countries to enter China for stays of up to 15 days, namely Germany, Malaysia, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy. The visa exemption applies not only to stays for tourism purposes, but also for business purposes, family visits or a stopover in transit. This is a unilateral step by China without reciprocity. Due to the contractual obligations under the Schengen Agreement, the European countries are also unable to provide a corresponding visa-free regime for Chinese travelers. In this respect, it remains to be seen whether visa-free travel will be extended to the member states of the Schengen area or even to the entire European Union and whether the visa requirement for Chinese travelers will then also be lifted in the course of reciprocity.

Entry into China is greatly simplified for citizens of the above-mentioned countries: they must have one of the above-mentioned travel purposes and their passport must be an ordinary passport that is valid for at least six months. The regulation applies on a trial basis from 1 December 2023 to 30 November 2024.

Facilitation of the visa application process

Visas are still required for longer stays in China. In this context, China has also introduced facilitations in the administrative procedure, for example, it is no longer necessary to make an appointment to apply for a visa. In addition, fingerprints will no longer be taken until 31 December 2023 on a trial basis. It remains to be seen whether this simplification will be continued.

How often visa-free entry is possible?

In this respect, the Chinese authorities' announcement on visa-free entry does not contain any information on how many times a year or within which period a person can use visa-free entry. It is therefore at least theoretically conceivable to leave China after the 15 days have expired, e.g. to Hong Kong, and then re-enter the country without a visa. On the other hand, this might be a circumvention of the visa requirement that continues to apply for longer stays, meaning that it may not be possible to re-enter China in the short term after a visa-free stay.

Implications for German companies

The lifting of the visa requirement is a considerable relief for German companies and investors in particular. On the one hand, the sometimes challenging bureaucratic process of applying for a visa due to the procurement of the necessary documents and a considerable lead time before the planned trip is no longer necessary, meaning that visits to a subsidiary or appointments with Chinese business partners can also be scheduled at short notice. The lifting of the visa requirement is also a significant and noticeable relief for the secondment of employees, for example for the maintenance and repair of machines and installations, whether in the own subsidiary or in the course of performing maintenance work for customers in China.
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